The Value of Labor

In an editorial published in the News-Journal today, Paul Greenberg reminds us that in Hebrew, worship and work share the same word: avodah. This is a hint of the importance of work. We see a further example of this in Genesis Chapter 2. God’s created Man and is giving him the Garden of Eden as a paradise in which to live. But even in this paradise, man is expected work. Genesis 2:15 tells us:

The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.

In paradise, we are expected to worship God, and one of the ways we fulfill that mission is through work. How much more in this world should be be expected to worship God through our work? Now, this doesn’t mean we can claim our work is our worship and ignore God either in our work or make other time for worship. Rather, we must do all that we do remembering God and doing it for Him. Saint Francis de Sales recommended a Direction of Intention any time we are undertaking a new action. There are many different versions, but the one I was taught goes as follows:

My God, I give you this action I am about to perform,
with you and through for you.
In advance, I offer you all the good I may do,
and accept all the difficulty I may meet therein.

It allows us to keep God always on our minds and remember that we should do everything with Him, through Him and for Him. That’s the true meaning of labor: doing everything we do so that it may meet the Will of God and be pleasing to Him and draw ourselves and others closer to Him. It why we would be working, even if we were still in the Garden of Eden: so that we could draw closer to Him and share in His work of creation and sanctification. So, when you return to work, remember to do it for God.

States Debate Use and Expense of Capital Punishment

States Debate Use and Expense of Capital Punishment – National Constitution Center

The Nebraska Legislature last month came within one vote of repealing its death penalty law. The new governor of Maryland called for the outright repeal of capital punishment. Most of Georgia’s 72 capital cases have been stopped because the state’s public defender system has run out of money. New Jersey lawmakers are drafting a bill to repeal that state’s death penalty. And last month the governor of Virginia, a state whose 96 executions since 1976 are exceeded only by those in Texas, vetoed five bills that would have expanded the use of capital punishment.

The legal system’s delivery of death sentences has dramatically slowed. During the 1990s the nation’s courts would customarily issue about 300 death sentences annually.

Those numbers have plummeted in the last seven years, to 128 in 2005 and 102 last year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that lobbies against capital punishment.

Capital punishment is one of the issues where I stray from views that are typically associated with conservatives, although I believe that opposition to the death penalty is the true conservative position. First, and foremost, if conservatives are to oppose intrusive government, how can we support the ultimate intrusion, the ability to end someone’s life? Second, conservatives, being primarily concerned with culture over politics, must admit that the death penalty brings with it a certain hardening of the hearts of our culture. It encourages people to view others as expendable and not worthy of life. That can only have a negative impact on our view of the importance of life over all.

In addition, as a Christian, and a Catholic, I agree with the statement of in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2267):

Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

It would seem axiomatic that all decisions must be made on the side of saving lives, allowing for the taking of a life when there is no other way to save other lives. So, it would be permissible for a woman to seek an abortion in the case of a tubal pregnancy, where the embryo lodges in the Fallopian tube rather then the uterus. Since the object in this case is to save the woman’s life with the destruction of the child as an unavoidable consequence, an abortion would be permitted in such a case. Similarly, capital punishment would be permissible when there is no other way to protect society from the dangers posed by the criminal in question. (I think this is a good summary of the ethical principle of “double effect.”)So, for this reason, if Bin Laden were still alive (which is in doubt given his three year absence) and we were to catch him, I think it would be permissible to execute him since there would be no other way to protect innocent lives given his obvious determination to kill as many Westerners as possible. So, given this caveat, I would be against an effort to permanently ban capital punishment in America. While it’s not currently needed, given the peace prevalent in our society, should that order no longer exist, situations may arise where the good of society demands it.

But, in any situation, the burden of proof should weigh strongly against execution given the importance of every human life. In addition, if someone has committed crimes worthy of execution, don’t we, as Christians, want to try to save their souls? Don’t we want to gain them a conversion of heart and the forgiveness of God before we send them to meet their eternal end? Wouldn’t God want us to take every opportunity to save the person’s soul rather than rid ourselves of them at the first opportunity? Which is the more Christian approach: working to bring them to God, no matter how long it takes, or to execute them as son as we can?

That said, I am obviously pleased with the decline in executions and death sentences being handed out, but am less sanguine about the long term outlook. I can’t shake the feeling that given the decline in crime over the past decade or so, that people are feeling less threatened by crime and so are less likely to strike out at criminals. If (when?) crime increases to higher levels, we will likely see an increase in support for the death penalty again.

So, despite the decline in public support for the death penalty, there’s still much work to be done if we’re to prevent the tide from turning back in the future.

Easter Vigil

I got home a few minutes ago from the Easter Vigil. I had gotten involved in my parish’s RCIA program to help those interested in joining the Catholic Church learn more about our faith before making the final commitment. Weekly meeting began in late September or early October, culminating into their full acceptance into the Church this evening at the Easter Vigil Mass. I had the great honor of sponsoring one of our catechumens for full communion.

Being on the RCIA team was very enriching for me. Seeing the genuine excitement some of them were showing as they learned about the faith really invigorated my faith. It makes me realize how blessed I am to have been raised in the Catholic Church my whole life. I’ve never had to search for Christ’s Church; I’ve been in it from my baptism when I was a month old. I also had the pleasure of talking to an acquaintance of mine who I hadn’t had the opportunity to talk to in a while. I was surprised to see she’s now a lector, after having only become a Catholic a few years ago. I spoke to her after Mass and she reminded me that she had been a Baptist but came to discover the Truth of Catholicism. It was good to hear that her father had become reconciled to her decision, after vehement opposition. These things take time and maybe now that he’s accepted her decision, his heart can be opened to make the same journey.

I always enjoy the Easter Vigil. The Church really goes all out to bring the the specialness of this evening that we begin the celebration of Christ’s victory over death. (In the Catholic Church, Easter last for eight days. All of next week is a time of celebration of Christ rising from the dead.) We sing the Exultet rejoicing that God sent Christ (and we always make sure to have our best cantors scheduled for the Easter Vigil). It’s also the culmination of a lot of work. We decorated the Church Thursday morning. (I had to miss that session due to work.) We had the Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper Thursday night commemorating Christ’s gift of the Eucharist and the ordained priesthood Thursday evening. Following that Liturgy, we had silent adoration in the Church to keep a vigil of prayer with him while he was in the Garden praying before his Passion. Friday morning, we gathered for Morning Prayer and another session of setting up the Church for the Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion. That began at three in the afternoon, the hour of Our Lord’s death for our sins. At seven that night, we prayed the Stations of the Cross, commemorating Our Lord’s journey from his being condemned to death to his burial in the tomb.

This morning, we again had Morning Prayer. (Mass and other sacraments are not offered between Thursday and Saturday due to Christ being in the tomb. It’s a reminder of what we would be missing without His sacrifice.) We then spent about two and a half hours decorating and cleaning the Church to prepare for tonight. The Mass began tonight at 7:30 with the Liturgy of Light where we light a fire in the back of the Church which represents Christ, light the Paschal candle from it and then light candles held by members of the congregation to signify the light of Christ spreading throughout the world. (The church is dark through this time.) There are then up to seven readings from the Old Testament to show the buildup to Christ coming into the world. It’s hard to read those readings without getting hit by the beauty of God’s plan for us.

I’m always pumped up by the Easter celebrations in the Catholic Church. For all our problems, we do liturgy right.

Easter Faith

Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the readings for Easter Sunday’s liturgy.

There are men — we see this in the phenomenon of suicide bombers — who die for a misguided or even evil cause, mistakenly retaining, but in good faith, that the cause is a worthy one.

Even Christ’s death does not testify to the truth of his cause, but only the fact that he believed in its truth. Christ’s death is the supreme witness of his charity, but not of his truth. This truth is adequately testified to only by the Resurrection. “The faith of Christians,” says St. Augustine, “is the resurrection of Christ. It is no great thing to believe that Jesus died; even the pagans believe this, everyone believes it. The truly great thing is to believe that he is risen.”

Keeping to the purpose that has guided us up to this point, we must leave faith aside for the moment and attend to history. We would like to try to respond to the following question: Can Christ’s resurrection be defined as a historical event, in the common sense of the term, that is, did it “really happen”?

There are two facts that offer themselves for the historian’s consideration and permit him to speak of the Resurrection: First, the sudden and inexplicable faith of the disciples, a faith so tenacious as to withstand even the trial of martyrdom; second, the explanation of this faith that has been left by those who had it, that is, the disciples. In the decisive moment, when Jesus was captured and executed, the disciples did not entertain any thoughts about the resurrection. They fled and took Jesus’ case to be closed.

In the meantime something had to intervene that in a short time not only provoked a radical change of their state of soul, but that led them to an entirely different activity and to the founding of the Church. This “something” is the historical nucleus of Easter faith.

If the historical character of the Resurrection — that is, its objective, and not only subjective, character — is denied, the birth of the Church and of the faith become an even more inexplicable mystery than the Resurrection itself. It has been justly observed that “the idea that the imposing edifice of the history of Christianity is like an enormous pyramid balanced upon an insignificant fact is certainly less credible than the assertion that the entire event — and that also means the most significant fact within this — really did occupy a place in history comparable to the one that the New Testament attributes to it.”

About Lust

Bishop Raymundo J. Peña:

God endowed our human nature with the capacity to give and receive love, and to beget new life, through the sexual act. In itself, it is good and, in fact, holy.

Lust is the disorder in our sexual drive due to the mystery of sin. It turns the giving of love into the selfish taking of pleasure. It involves a communion of bodies but not of spirits. Lust focuses not on the person, but on the person’s body. It demeans individuals by judging their value according to their physical attractiveness and availability. It strips the body of its dignity by turning it into merchandise, and robs sexuality of its mystery by reducing it to be an instrument of raw pleasure.

By not recognizing lust for what it is, and by encouraging us not to control it, our culture trains us to relinquish self-restraint in every other dimension of life. It trains us to obey every impulse or appetite. While claiming freedom to live as we desire, we actually lose our freedom. Instead of controlling our passions, we allow our passions to control us. Reducing life to the search for self-gratification, we become self-centered and ignore the needs of others.

Divine Mercy Novena – Second Day

The Divine Mercy Novena

“Today bring to Me the Souls of Priests and Religious, and immerse them in My unfathomable mercy. It was they who gave me strength to endure My bitter Passion. Through them as through channels My mercy flows out upon mankind.”

Most Merciful Jesus, from whom comes all that is good, increase Your grace in men and women consecrated to Your service,* that they may perform worthy works of mercy; and that all who see them may glorify the Father of Mercy who is in heaven.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the company of chosen ones in Your vineyard — upon the souls of priests and religious; and endow them with the strength of Your blessing. For the love of the Heart of Your Son in which they are enfolded, impart to them Your power and light, that they may be able to guide others in the way of salvation and with one voice sing praise to Your boundless mercy for ages without end. Amen.